Stratfor to settle class action suit over hack

NEW YORK Wed Jun 27, 2012 10:38pm EDT

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The global security analysis company Strategic Forecasting Inc will settle a class action lawsuit brought by one of its customers over a crippling attack by hackers who stole data of clients including Henry Kissinger, court documents show.

U.S. District Judge Denis Hurley in Central Islip on New York's Long Island earlier this month gave his stamp of approval to a proposed settlement in a case that was filed in January.

Stratfor, as the Austin, Texas-based firm is known, was breached in December by hackers affiliated with the Anonymous group who published lists of hundreds of thousands of email addresses belonging to subscribers along with thousands of customer credit card numbers.

The lists included information on people including former U.S. Vice President Dan Quayle, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and former CIA Director Jim Woolsey.

U.S. federal prosecutors in Manhattan have charged one person in the United States and four Irish and British men with the hack.

By giving his preliminary approval to the settlement, the judge granted class action status to the underlying lawsuit.

In his June 14 order, the judge said a class member, for purposes of qualifying for the settlement, was any person or company who was a current or former Stratfor subscriber as of December 24, 2011.

Under the settlement terms, Stratfor does not admit any "wrongdoing, fault, violation of law or liability of any kind." A spokesman for Stratfor did not immediately return a request for comment.

The settlement called for Stratfor to offer class members who opt in to it one month of free access to its service, worth $29.08, and an electronic book published by Stratfor called "The Blue Book," priced at $12.99. The two together may cost Stratfor approximately $1.75 million, according to estimates in the settlement.

The settlement also calls on Stratfor to pay for a credit monitoring service for class members who ask for it, as well as to continue paying for additional security to protect its networks. A $400,000 lump sum will go to paying plaintiff attorneys and various fees.

Once the settlement is given final approval, Stratfor agrees to share any amount it recovers from its insurer over the breach, the settlement documents said.

Stratfor describes itself as a subscription-based publisher of geopolitical analysis with an intelligence-based approach to gathering information.

The attorneys appointed by the judge to be the lead lawyers for the class did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Their client, David Sterling of Sterling & Sterling Inc, is a New York-area insurance broker.

The judge set a final approval hearing, known as a fairness hearing, for September 28.

The case is Sterling et al v. Strategic Forecasting, Inc. et al, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, No 12-00297.

(Editing by Eric Walsh)

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